The half dollar was an extremely useful coin during the 19th Century, and this type generally was coined in large numbers. Low mintages were recorded during the early 1850s due to the high price of silver, and again 1879-91 from an oversupply of fractional silver coins in Treasury vaults. A number of issues from the San Francisco and Carson City Mints were also of small mintage, this reflecting the difficult circumstances under which they were produced and also the economic peculiarities of the Far West economy.
Collecting these coins by date and mint is a satisfying challenge, the only true rarities being 1853-O without arrows and 1878-S. Several other date/mint combinations are scarce but obtainable. Due to the large mintages this series enjoyed, and also to the use of several distinctive mintmark punches, there are numerous interesting seated liberty half dollar varieties to collect.
NGC will attribute Seated Liberty Half Dollar varieties listed in VarietyPlus, which includes most of the popular Cherrypicker varieties. Some of the better varieties are the bold doubled date for 1844-O, 1846 over horizontal 6, 1877 over 6, 1861-O with Confederate obverse die and doubled dies for 1842 and 1853, as well as a number of less prominent Seated Liberty Half Dollar varieties. These less publicized varieties are well documented in the book by Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert, yet the mainstream hobby has been slow to appreciate them. Recent reference books by Bugert have documented each and every known die variety for the Carson City Mint and San Francisco Mint halves.